Commons Land Case: Western vs Islamic Perspective

Dr Asad Zaman in his lectures discussed privatization by comparing an Islamic and Western judgement on an historical issue of commons land. I'm going to describe it in my words:

In England there was commons' land, and as the word common modifies the land it means land for the common people. Common people depended on this land for their livelihood and shelter. They were mostly people with no luxuries or even modest income levels, who're only surviving on what they could find in the forests, lakes, etc., for themselves and/or for their cattle. Similarly, it provided them housing and stuff. They were poor people but the land made life liveable and gave a sense of security against economic upheavals and complete bankruptcy of basic necessities.

The rich people had their eyes on it for long. In 1066, after the Normans Conquest, things changed drastically. Rich and powerful lords approached for 'privatization' of the land, in a sense. All the poor people were banished from the commons land, which became not so common by then. Their houses were destroyed and what not. Survival became difficult, if not impossible. Previously, they could graze their sheep and drink its milk or eat fresh fish from flowing lakes or rivers and survive, but now the conditions became worse.

The same situation took place back in the times of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). Their was a commons land under his rule on which poor people used to graze their cattle. Rich and powerful people approached him (PBUH) to allow their cattle to enter it for grazing. Prophet (PBUH) forbade their entrance and instructed them to find some other pasture or land for their big flocks, lest they might overgraze the rightful share of poor people's pasture.

The judgement given by Prophet (PBUH) is totally opposite to the one given by the kuffar and shows the basis of Islamic economics to be welfare of the people and especially the poor.

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